“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you”– John 14:15-17
A great place to start to understand the work of the Holy Spirit is to read what Jesus said. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is our helper, and the Spirit of Truth, that will be with us forever (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit will convict us of our sin (John 15:8) and lead us into truth (John 15:13). Elsewhere in scripture we see that the Holy Spirit creates (Genesis 1:2), empowers (Zechariah 4:6), gifts (1 Corinthians 12), guides (Romans 8:4), teaches (John 16:13) and commands (Act 8:29). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26), the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28) and the Spirit of Righteousness (Psalm 50:12).
We also understand that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the trinity that makes up the Godhead: The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each is divine, with coequality and recognized as God. During the patristic period, there were many heresies that belittled the divinity of the Holy Spirit but there were also talented theologians who rose to the challenge to defend the truth. Saint Basil of Caesarea (330-379) is one such theologian who helped to lay out the foundation for trinitarian theology and defended the divinity of the Holy Spirit against heresies such as Arianism. His work on the trinitarian theology later supported the Nicene Creed (381) which regards Jesus as divine and co-eternal with God the Father.
Comfort in Times of Hardship
Christians today can rely heavily on the Holy Spirit for all the same reasons earlier Christian did. This can include exercising your spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12) or getting guidance as mentioned before, but it also could mean gaining something as simple as comfort in those tough times when nothing else seems to be working. In spiritual direction, we rely heavily on the Holy Spirit and often seek opportunities to not only hear from Him but to also experience His comfort. We do this primary through reading and meditating on scripture, but God’s comfort can also be felt through other disciplines of prayer, moments of silence and simply talking about the issue at hand. God’s comfort can be experienced at any time, and in any place.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”– 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Apart from the Bible demonstrating how the Holy Spirit intercedes in the lives of the apostles, tradition also captures how the Holy Spirit has touched people in comforting ways. For example, the friar Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226) was walking the streets when suddenly, the Lord touched his heart, “filling it with such surpassing sweetness.” In another example, the theologian John Wesley (1703 – 1791) found himself in great despair and after reluctantly listening to Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to Roman in Aldersgate, Wesley felt his “heart strangely warmed.”
When you need comfort, you can ask the Holy Spirit to come. God may decide to immediately come and fill you with such “surpassing sweetness” as He did with Francis of Assisi or plan a particular moment in the future to “warm your heart” as He did with John Wesley. Ignatius of Loyola (1491 – 1556) comments in his second week of spiritual exercises that followers of Christ can at any given moment experience deep comfort (consolation) without any apparent connection to some previous event. However His comfort will come, whether it be now or in the future, you can rest assured that God is looking after you, cares for you greatly and has plans for your life. Continue to reach for the Lord because He is extending His hand to grab a hold of yours.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”– John 16:33